Local prolific deckbuilder, Matt Hyra, shows us how to build a pilot deck - Rebel Style!
By Matt Hyra
Hi there. My name is Matt Hyra. I've been working for Wizards of the Coast for about 6 years, most recently as a Customer Service Rules Support Rep. My plan with this new weekly column is to take you, the reader, on a magical journey into the land of deck creation for the Star Wars Trading Card Game. We'll examine cards and decide what to put into decks to make something fun, unique and interesting. I've already built over 25 different decks and want to expand that number through some exploration of different cards, especially from new sets as they are released. I don't build killer tournament decks, so expect to see decks that are focused on particular themes or are just for fun.
This week I want to look at the Light Side Starfighter Pilots from the recently released A New Hope set. The versatility of Pilots is truly what makes them great. They fight where you need them, when you need them.
First up, the best Pilot in the set, Wedge Antilles (A). His basic ability to boost a Starfighter's speed and power are good enough to warrant putting one in any deck containing Starfighters. But his activated ability is what's really noteworthy. Being able to retreat a damaged unit and save the Pilot is an incredible ability. Saves two birds with one Force.
The best Starfighter to put him on is Obi-Wan's Starfighter (A), since it has the ability to heal itself at the start of next turn's battle phase. So as long as his ship isn't killed in a single blow, Wedge can retreat it and redeploy it next turn unscathed. Wedge would also do well to attach to a Naboo Starfighter Squadron. Its four health is nice as it can withstand an attack from just about any Dark Side Starfighter and then be retreated to safety.
Tiree (A) is a team player. He gives his Starfighter Intercept and when he gets his rig shot out from under him, he inspires the rest of the squadron to greater heights. Losing a Pilot and Starfighter is a tough loss, so it isn't something that we're going to look forward to happening. But if both sides have amassed large forces in Space, he's our ace in the hole.
Tiree would do well aboard a N-1 Starfighter or X-Wing Red Three. Yes, he will probably die immediately if he uses Intercept, but if we've got 3 or 4 other Starfighters that haven't attacked yet, sending Tiree off to draw fire get us a lot of extra attack dice. The best use of his Intercept is to get him on a ship that is fast. No sense in redirecting an attack onto a ship that hasn't fired yet.
The Stun 3 ability of Jon Dutch Vander (A) is a great Space superiority tool as it can negate virtually any single Dark Side Starfighter for the turn. However, Light Side Starfighters are a touch slower than Dark Side, so he may not be able to Stun an opposing Starfighter before it attacks. Dutch's ability is incredibly useful for anti-Starfighter action, but if the Dark Side is deploying Capital Ships, he might as well stay home, unless you've got a bunch of Stun units in Space.
Dutch needs to hit and do it quickly to be effective. The best unit for him to fly is Luke's X-Wing (A). Speed 50, power 3 and Accuracy ensures he will go fairly quickly and have a great chance for at least one hit… and we only need one to trigger his Stun ability.
Biggs Darklighter (A) has what amounts to a kind of "super-intercept," since he can use his ability after the attack dice have been rolled to save another Space unit. Unlike Intercept, this is an all or nothing proposition. If we've got a very important unit in Space and no other way to protect it, this is the last resort. Losing a Starfighter and Biggs is a big loss, so we'd better make sure the unit he's sacrificing himself for is worthy.
Biggs is most at home on a fast, cheap Starfighter like the N-1 Starfighter. We want to make sure that we lose as few build points as possible when he goes.
Finally, we come to the only non-unique Light Side Starfighter Pilot so far: Rebel Pilot. He gives the Light Side Starfighters the speed edge they need over the quicker Dark Side Starfighters. Being non-unique allows us to put multiples of him in the deck without worrying about having him sit idle in our hand.
The Rebel Pilot does best aboard the Naboo Starfighter Squadron. It's a strong unit that could benefit from the extra speed. Although, if you really, really want to attack first (like if you're facing a Tyranus's Solar Sailer (A)) the Rebel Pilot can boost the N-1 Starfighter to an incredible 80 speed!
Piloting can be a risky maneuver. There's a bit of "putting all your eggs in one basket" involved. When the Starfighter goes, so too the Pilot. But with the right support, they can keep fighting turn after turn. Since we are planning on using Starfighter Pilots, we naturally need to use a lot of Starfighters. There's nothing sadder than a Pilot without a ship. I like to focus my decks, so if I'm using Starfighter Pilots, I'm inclined to not put anything in Space but Starfighters. It's wise to maximize the opportunity for a Pilot to do what he does best.
Here's a sample deck using the cards and ideas above.
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1 Tiree (A)
1 Jon Dutch Vander (A)
I decided on just one of each of these, as they are unique. I want to make sure that I don't end up with any duplicates during setup. I also decided against using Biggs Darklighter (A). He is better used in escorting something worth saving, like a Capital Ship. No sense in losing a Pilot and Starfighter to save another Starfighter.2 Rebel Pilot
I think a total of five Pilots will work just fine. I don't want to get into a situation where there are more Pilots than Starfighters.2 Obi-Wan Kenobi (G)
1 Obi-Wan Kenobi (E)
2 Obi-Wan Kenobi (F)
After clearing out Space, the Pilots will be recalled to fight in Character, where they are very vulnerable. Obi-Wan's Intercept will keep the Pilots alive long enough to do some good. There are multiple copies of Obi-Wan G and F to ensure I will get an Intercept version deployed and stacked as well.2 Rebel Crew Chief
Since I want to deploy a bunch of Starfighters, I need a way to do it on the cheap, and this guy is it. Also, should I lose Obi-Wan, having another dedicated Character arena unit will ensure I can get reinforcements in without leaving the arena (or losing the game).
2 Luke's X-Wing (A)
These unique units are great with Pilots or without. They are also big targets and will be the first to die when Intercept is not an option, which is why I think two of each is required. They are also good enough that I want to make sure I draw one as early as possible.4 X-wing Red Three
A Starfighter with a Pilot has big crosshairs on it, so these Interceptors will be crucial for keeping the Pilots alive. These are in here to soak up the hits, so I'll pretty much never put a Pilot aboard one of them.4 Naboo Starfighter Squadron
2 N-1 Starfighter
These Naboo Starfighters are good for their Pilot survivability in the former and super speed and low cost in the latter.1 Senatorial Cruiser
The only non-Starfighter in the lot, but his special ability works well when I want to retrieve one of the Interceptors from the scrap heap.
1 Rebel Control Post
1 Yavin 4 Hangar Base
These units support my strategy. I can get Obi-Wan back in a pinch with the Moisture Farm. I can keep building Starfighters with the Hangar Base. And I can keep my opponent out of the Space arena with the Control Post.4 AT-TE Walker 23X
2 Mobile Assault Cannon
2 Rebel Honor Company
4 Elite Jedi Squad
Since the deck is not very strong in Character, I need good Ground units to (hopefully) win Space and Ground.
With all those Critical Hit units in Ground, a few extra dice virtually guarantees a Crit.2 Synchronized Assault
2 Stabilize Deflectors
These will help my Starfighters hit hard and stay alive. The Force costs are bit high, so that's why I didn't go with more. I don't want to run out of Force as I'll need it to Intercept.2 Anakin's Inspiration
1 Starfighter's End
1 Padawan's Deflection
When all else fails, keep your Starfighters from dying the old fashioned way…
Don't put any Pilots out early during setup as that gives away your intention to go heavy into Space and weak in Character. It's a good idea to try and match your opponent unit for unit in Space, then drop a Pilot or two and swing the odds in your favor.
Be conservative with your Battle cards as you should use the abilities of your units in play while you have them. Your Battle cards will last. Your units may not. While Obi-Wan's Intercept is a great ability, you don't want to lose him protecting a Pilot. Of course, I might just abandon the Character arena if my opponent is strong there. If I can get away with deploying a few Pilots, then move them over to Space, so much the better for my strategy.
If you haven't built a Piloting deck, I suggest you get cracking. Or maybe you are more of a Dark Side player… Next time I'll be examining the Dark Side's Pilots. Stay tuned!